In recent years, along with many towns and large-scale properties throughout the Midwest, the King-Bruwaert property in Burr Ridge experienced the adverse effects of invasive species. These impacts included damage to the ash trees from the Emerald Ash borer and the invasion of the exotic buckthorn that choked native trees and plants throughout our natural, wooded landscape. Two years ago, K-B consulted with Bartlett Tree Experts to evaluate acres of trees and create an inventory report that identified and rated the condition of all trees on the 35-acre land parcel located at 6101 S. County Line Road. The report proved to be enlightening yet heart-breaking. Many trees, especially ash, were recommended for removal and significant portions of the property had infestations of invasive buckthorn that had to be removed to provide opportunities for native plants and trees to grow. King-Bruwaert House began the process of creating a multi-phase Reforestation Project. The first step was to remove the tagged trees and invasive species and plan for the planting process that would revive the landscape over time.
Historically, some of the trees established roots on the property even before the retirement community opened its doors in 1933. The land has always been uniquely wooded, characterizing a pastoral, country setting where residents could enjoy peace, tranquility and a scenic setting throughout the seasons. Founder Suzanne King-Bruwaert left a substantial endowment in 1928 to build the French Georgian Manor residence for women, age 60+. After traveling extensively throughout Europe with her diplomat husband, Madame Bruwaert witnessed exceptional medical care in elegant, picturesque settings. In hand-written notes to her trustees, she directed them to acquire a large, wooded property that would provide comfort to women living in the home. She recognized then, as do many medical professionals today, that patients recover faster when they’re in comfortable settings offering tree-lined views that create calmness, serenity, and restfulness.
During K-B’s early days, a section of land just east of the main building featured fruit and vegetable gardens, an orchard and vineyard. Fresh produce generated from the gardens was served to the once predominantly female population living in the home. Today, a small orchard has been added in the same location and a group of resident gardening enthusiasts have created a vegetable garden to share with the community.
Throughout its 84-year history, K-B’s dedicated leadership kept pace with changes in the marketplace. On-going construction projects brought more care and services, men and couples to the community and additional land was required for expansions. While K-B made every effort to save and maintain its lush landscape, there were times when trees required thinning, particularly when The Woods of King-Bruwaert cottage homes were built in 1994. K-B responded by hiring licensed arborists to protect, preserve and care for the trees.
K-B’s Phase 2 tree-removal stage has been under way for about two years, in line with K-B’s long-range reforestation plan. To date about 13% of K-B’s 1,807 trees have been have been taken down that were identified as diseased, dying, invasive species or at risk for compromising safety.
During Phase 3, K-B officials will work with The Morton Arboretum tree specialists to create a list of diverse trees and shrubs best suited to plant on the property. These approved varieties should eventually grow well as they will meet the specific conditions of the sites where they will be planted.
For Phase 4, K-B has contracted with a local landscape architect who will assist in creating a Master Plan for the replanting of appropriate trees and shrubs into landscape areas identified with wet, dry, sunny or shade conditions. Selecting ideal trees for the planting areas will be especially important since the 35 acre-property includes a bustling tributary of Flagg Creek that angles across the parcel along a 1.5-mile walking path. Two man-made ponds with aerators also line the pathway. Once finished, the Master Plan will be made available to residents who may be interested in the types of trees and shrubs targeted for the planting areas.
Phase 5 promises to be the most exciting in the sequential reforestation effort. Actual planting of trees and shrubs will take place, beginning in areas that are identified as highly visible and in close proximity to residents’ homes. Since tree and invasive species removal efforts were more significant in some areas, these locations may receive more substantial plantings.
Even before the Reforestation Project was started, K-B initiated a Tree Memorial Program that gave residents and family members an opportunity to plant a tree in recognition of a loved one. During the past several years, more than 35 families have purchased trees as part of this memorial program. A tree memorial plaque at K-B identifies the location of these trees, as well as the name of the individual being remembered.
K-B also welcomes donations from the greater community to support this significant Reforestation Project. Research shows strong evidence from scientists that trees not only improve and beautify the environment, they also improve air and water quality, reduce heat impacts, provide habitat for wildlife and improve physical and mental health.
K-B invites local Scouting troops, service organizations and gardening clubs to consider a tree donation as part of their community-focused operations. Those groups that have an environmentally-directed mission in planning annual service projects are welcome to consider underwriting a commemorative tree or planting area that will benefit local residents long into the future. K-B will recognize all those organizations that wish to make a tree donation.
K-B management maintains great optimism about the Reforestation Project that will result in a resurgence of diverse, healthy trees returning to the expansive, historic campus and neighborhood.
“As stewards of our beautiful property, we recognize that K-B’s natural environment is valued and enjoyed by all who live and work here,” said Chief Executive Officer Terri Bowen. “We will continue to be vigilant and pro-active as we plant and protect the trees and landscaping that have significance to us all.”